LONDON The British government said on Thursday it would refer Rupert Murdoch’s planned takeover of European pay-TV group Sky to regulators to decide if the deal was in the public interest.
Murdoch’s U.S. TV business Twenty-First Century Fox, which own 39 percent of Sky, notified the European Commission of its 11.7 billion pound ($14.3 billion) bid earlier this month, opening a window for Britain to intervene.
Media Secretary Karen Bradley told parliament it was important and appropriate to seek advice from the regulator Ofcom on whether the deal would give Murdoch and his companies too much control of Britain’s media, and whether the new owner would be committed to broadcasting standards.
Bradley said she had set Ofcom a 40-day timetable to investigate, and expected to receive its report by May 16.
She said Ofcom, as an independent regulator, would assess whether Murdoch’s company was a “fit and proper” holder of a broadcasting license in the same time frame.
Twenty-First Century Fox said it was looking forward to working with British authorities in their reviews of the deal, and it believed the deal to be approved.
“We are confident that a thorough review of our track record over 30 years will underscore our commitment to upholding high broadcast standards, and will demonstrate that the transaction will not result in there being insufficient plurality in the UK,” the company said on Thursday.
The Murdoch family have never wavered in their ambition to take full control of Sky, despite the damaging failure of a previous attempt five years ago when their British newspaper business became embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.
Some opposition lawmakers oppose the deal, saying Murdoch, the owner of The Times and The Sun newspapers, would wield too much power if he had full control of a pay-TV group present in more than 12 million British and Irish homes.
Twenty-First Century Fox, which owns cable, broadcast, film and pay-TV assets around the world, said the media market had changed dramatically in recent years.
Shares in Sky were largely unaffected by the decision, which had been widely expected after Bradley said earlier this month she was minded to intervene.
They were trading up 0.3 percent at 988.5 pence.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton/Keith Weir)